Monday, February 9, 2015

The Dynamic Duo of the Himalayas

While speaking at the American School of Bombay, I had the pleasure of meeting an American-born teacher named Carol who had a charming story to tell about her son and daughter and a certain Boy Wonder:

In the late 1980s, my family was living in a little town north of New Delhi, a hill station named Mussoorie, where my kids attended Woodstock School, the oldest international boarding school in Asia. My son Jamie was always gathering up the neighborhood kids to play superheroes and would bully them shamelessly to be Spider-Man one day, Superman another, Batman another, etc., as they roared up and down and around the hill paths surrounding our house.

[At] about nine years old, he was dead keen to have a Robin outfit for Halloween. So several weeks before, I walked into the bazaar and sat with one of the local tailors, Abhinandan, who was completely mystified by this most unusual request. I patiently sat with him, explaining who Robin was, showing him comic books, giving him Jamie’s measurements, explaining how important this was to Jamie, and assuring him he could do this. And indeed he did:
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Since it was cold, Jamie ended up wearing a pair of nylons under his outfit—and I promised I would never tell his friends.

The Batman outfit, by the way, we inherited in Bombay a few years earlier from an Australian preschool friend of Jamie’s. I’m sure Batman never carried a red pistol…but, hey, all’s fair in love and war—and this was clearly war.

Jamie now lives in Delhi, where he writes about superheroes of a different sort as a cricket journalist.

My daughter Afshaan was a cheerful sidekick to all of Jamie’s adventurous and imaginative games. She’s probably three years old in this photo. She would like someday to be a writer, for which I take all the blame. She was a child interested in everything—every rock, every ladybug, every plant, every cow we passed on the way down the hill to preschool. It was torturous to ensure both kids got to school on time every day. 

So I told stories. I started with the usual ones—the Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, Rapunzel, etc., then Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, etc., then got desperate and resorted to “Batman Meets Cinderella” and “Spider-Man Courts Rapunzel,” etc. Thus, step-by-step, talking non-stop the entire 20 minutes downhill, I cajoled my sweet little girl to school. The crunch came when I’d pick her up at noon and she’d say, “Okay, Mama, tell me the story you told me this morning,” and I would have no idea…

This is the power of superheroes…and brave tailors in little towns in the Himalayas…

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